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Get over the Anheuser-Busch contract

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | SEPTEMBER 26, 2012 6:30 AM

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In her Tuesday interview with The Daily Iowan, UI President Sally Mason decided to make few comments on the renewal of the University of Iowa’s latest contract renewal with Anheuser-Busch. “I’m not talking about it anymore. You’ve beaten that to death. There isn’t anything else to say,” she said. “I don’t mind because it’s The Daily Iowan — you’re learning. But it’s not news. You’ve beat it to death, you’ve had your fun with it — move on. Get on to some of the important issues. It certainly isn’t news.”

We agree with the president’s statement about the public’s fixation on the Anheuser-Busch contract. The media, along with the general public, should stop hounding Mason and focus their attention on other problems.  The renewal of Learfield Communications Inc. and Anheuser-Busch’s contract with the Hawkeye Athletics Department this past summer has been widely criticized by various groups and members of the community.

Most of the criticism originated because of a new aspect of the contract, which allows the Tigerhawk logo to be displayed in Anheuser-Busch advertisements, so long as the ads are accompanied by a message promoting responsible drinking. Persons are, and have been, concerned that this will add to the negative alcohol culture associated with the UI. “Issues like that will come up from time to time,” said Kelly Bender, the Campus-Community Harm Reduction Initiatives coordinator. “It’s important that we do not lose sight of the issue at hand and that we all work together to put together strategies to make progress.”

Since the contract’s renewal, Mason has been at the center of the controversy surrounding it. She has, on numerous occasions, explained her views about the contract and also addressed the issue by stating that perhaps she would have made an alternative decision had she been aware of the turmoil her decision would create. “You know, in retrospect I probably would have done this a different way,” said Mason in an interview with “Iowa Press.” “If I had realized that it was going to raise the kinds of issues that it has at this point, I’m not sure that it’s worth the revenues that we’re getting to our Athletics Department.  So yeah, I probably would reconsider.”

The university has seen a decline in the rate of alcohol use among its students since 2009, according to data from the 2012 National College Health Assessment report. In fact, alcohol use is currently at the lowest level that it has ever been over the past 20 years of data collection. The report also highlighted a decrease in the average number of drinks per UI student, as well as in risky drinking since 2009, the year the university started taking major steps to combat the drinking issues around campus.

When the problem is being adequately addressed, it is both necessary and wise for the community to divert more attention toward other issues. Take for instance a tuition freeze.

A tuition freeze has not occurred in at least 32 years, and the smallest increase in tuition since 1980 was by 3.2 percent in 2008. Over the last 10 years, the cost of attending UI has almost tripled. Given the current unemployment rates that students face, along with the national average student debt of $25,000, tuition freeze is something that needs to be implemented. Like the state Board of Regents, we support freezing tuition for the upcoming academic year. This is only one of the many issues the community should focus on.

Though addressing alcohol abuse should remain a priority for the current UI administration, the community should leave the Anheuser-Busch contract in the past.


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